The country’s biggest port has reported a record profit on surging cargo volumes and earned a credit rating upgrade into the bargain.

The Port of Tauranga had a net profit of $100.6 million for the year ended June, at the top of the company’s forecast range, compared with $94.3m the year before.

Chief executive Mark Cairns said the port was reaping the benefits from its major upgrade and dredging programme of several years ago which had established it as the country’s premier cargo hub.

“Development of the group’s network of ports, inland freight hubs and logistics services, ensures importers and exporters in key cargo-producing areas throughout the country can access the efficiencies offered by bigger ships.”

Revenue increased 10.4 percent to $313.3m as the port handled 1.2m containers, a third of which were transhipped to or from other ports in the country. Overall cargo volumes rose 10 percent rise to 26.9m tonnes.

Cairns said the rest of the country could access fast, big ship services that only call in Tauranga through coastal shipping linking Timaru, Napier, Nelson or Wellington.

The port has an inland facility in south Auckland, which gathers and rails freight to Tauranga, and has just signed a deal with Tainui to develop a similar facility in Waikato.

The company also expanded its Christchurch inland freight hub to handle dairy exports from Westland Milk.

Port of Tauranga has half shares in the port of Timaru and Whangārei-based Northport, as well as stakes in stevedoring, logistics and warehousing.

Cairns said so far there were no signs that cargo volumes in and out of the country were being affected by the continuing trade dispute between the US and China, although it was keeping a close watch on what was occurring. Similarly log exports in recent months have been strong, despite reports of a slump in prices and sales to China.

The company’s full year dividend has increased by nearly 5 percent to 13.3 cents a share, while it is also paying a special dividend of 5 cents a share as it pays back unneeded cash, although it plans to reduce the special dividend to 2.5 cents for the next four years.

Ratings agency Standard and Poors provided some icing to the earnings cake by raising the port’s credit rating to A- from BBB+.

This article was originally published on RNZ and re-published with permission.

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